A STEP FORWARD...
FOR MOTORCYCLING WOMANKIND
'The Olympic legacy'; one justification for the millions poured into the 2012 event. It hasn't quite turned out as the government had hoped, or would have had us believe. In fact the numbers and hours people expend on sporting activity has declined since the 2012 sporting jamboree.
Last month Honda announced the signing of racer Jenny Tinmouth as a member of their British Superbike (BSB) team. The first and only female rider to compete in this prestigious and very competitive championship. Amongst her racing achievements is to have lapped the TT circuit at just under 120mph. Her website www.jennytinmouth.com cites all her race history, information, and results: and I'm drawn to the fact that one of her sponsors is called 'The Beer Trading Company'.
Following this positive move by Honda, Tinmouth was invited to take part in an event at the Olympic Park in East London entitled 'Inspiring Women in Sport'. This campaign aims to recruit and encourage women involved in sport at professional participation and media level, to deliver talks to 250,000 young women who are still at school, about their experiences and how they developed their careers or achieved their aims. Honda motocross racer Catherine King was also there, demonstrating how this branch of our sport can also yield success for women riders.
Women have fought for and made notable advances in combating prejudice and discrimination down the years, but there's still a long struggle before gender equality is achieved across all aspects of society. For example pay, religion, political representation, sporting recognition etc.
Motorcycling is one of the most male dominated sports, and it's not a very woman friendly environment. While T shirts are still on sale that say: 'If you can read this, the bitch has fallen off'. Or when the main regular item on a well known web site is Moto GP grid girls; then it is clear that motorcycling still has a long way to go to become a more open and welcoming environment for female riders and participants.
That's not to say that women riders have not made breakthroughs that have equalled those made by their male counterparts. But given that they represent around fifty per cent of the human race, there is a way to go.
Two women on 'The Rugged Road'
One of the examples I like to recount is the story of Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron who made an unsupported journey from London to Cape Town in 1935 riding a 500cc Panther with a sidecar and towing a trailer. This entailed crossing the Sahara, and down through some of the toughest bush country in Africa. A book of the trip 'The Rugged Road' has been published from Wallach's diary account, and it renders today's descriptions of 'adventure' this and that, somewhat tame www.panther-publishing.com
Last year another well known website had a sincere go at redressing some of the balance by showcasing the top ten women motorcycle racers: there are more of course. The article posed a question as to 'whether in general women's brain chemistry predisposes the 'fairer sex' towards skills not immediately associated with those required to win races?'
The patronising 'fairer sex' label aside, this is the type of stereotypical and sloppy thinking and utterance that has historically bedevilled women's achievements, intentional or otherwise. Has the writer of this piece not seen women's track cycling and stage racing, downhill skiers, toboggan racers, and the level of 'aggression' and skill displayed by women tennis players.
Watch them go!
There are hundreds of blokes competing in motorcycle sport who will never race at the level of Jenny Tinmouth, or be able to ride off road long distance races like Patsy Quick or the Dakar rider Laia Sanz. Would the same question even be raised in relation to the male gender?
The human condition is complex, and to a greater or lesser extent we are all prisoners of our biology, genetic make up, family upbringing, education, experience, etc, etc. This is especially true for women who have been ascribed certain roles in society, making it a struggle to break out and acquire the new experiences and skills required for different career paths.
Just as motorcycling needs more and younger participants. It would also benefit from a more balanced gender participation with women in roles as riders, trainers, racers, technicians, scrutineers, and not just lap chart tickers, tea makers, and brolly 'girls'.
Watch Jenny Tinmouth and all the other BSB competitors scorch the Brands Hatch Indy circuit at the opening BSB meeting of the season on April 18th/19th.
What do you think? Would you like to see more women in motorcycle sport? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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